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Controversial new hire request sent to Granite Shoals council workshop

Hillside Park in Granite Shoals

Hillside Park in Granite Shoals is one of 19 parks in the city that the parks committee wants to upgrade with new playground equipment. Park improvements became an issue during discussion of adding a part-time city planner to staff. Staff photo

Heated words were exchanged at the Granite Shoals City Council meeting Tuesday, March 22, when City Manager Jeff Looney asked the council to approve hiring a part-time city planning and development coordinator. The request was to approve the position at $90 an hour for 15 hours a week. He already had a candidate in mind, he said, a former city manager for Bee Cave. 

The issue was tabled by a 5-1 vote and will be discussed in a workshop with several other issues at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 29. 

The vote against tabling the item came from Councilor Samantha Ortis. She wanted to vote against it, not have it come back for discussion in a future meeting or workshop, she told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. Councilor Bruce Jones was not present. 

“We already have a high-paid administration, higher than this area and other cities our size,” Ortis said during the meeting, directing her remarks to Looney. “We’ve been told you have plenty of experience to do your job, and now you’re saying you can’t handle this. When you got that $60,000 raise, you said you could do it. If we have this guy, what do we need you for?” (Looney was given a $37,000-a-year raise two years ago that also included four weeks of annual vacation.

“Those are great questions,” the city manager responded. “In most places, the city manager doesn’t do nearly everything I do. Because I’m a generalist, I have experience with water and wastewater, code enforcement, streets, all those things. Staff has to report to somebody.” 

He went on to suggest that the council might want to consider changing the charter to do away with having a city manager form of government. 

Ortis challenged that statement. 

“I wasn’t referring to the form of government,” she said. Pointing to two large posters on the wall, she continued, “According to that list and this list, you won’t have much going on.” 

The charts behind the council-curved dais list city duties and which city employee is responsible for each.

“You are making this about me,” Looney said. “This is not about me.” 

He pointed out that Granite Shoals is a growing city and the staff is stretched to the point of breaking with current responsibilities.  

Mayor Will Skinner and Councilor Phil Ort also voiced opposition to the new position.

“We need to discuss this in a workshop, if we discuss it at all,” Skinner said. “I can tell you, though, I am not on board with this.” 

“I have a problem with adding another position,” Ort said. “Granite Shoals is not a huge city. We can barely pave our roads. To begin with, we already have more positions than any city that fits our criteria.” 

Ort said he conducted a study of cities similar to Granite Shoals, comparing positions and salaries. 

“A lot of these cities are going through the exact same growth we are,” he said. “They aren’t adding positions.” 

Residents attending the meeting also had something to say, particularly a member of the parks committee who was already upset that two agenda items councilors requested be on this agenda were left off. The items were to appoint a council liaison to the parks committee and to reallocate unspent salary funds in the current budget on park improvements. 

“Our top priority is to update our parks equipment,” said parks committee member Shirley King. “But it doesn’t seem like a lot of our recommendations get taken.”

Fellow parks committee member Michele Landfield spoke during public comments at the beginning of the meeting, asking about the missing agenda items. 

“At the last meeting, at least four council members asked for these items to be on today’s agenda,” she said. “Why aren’t they?”

The council is not allowed by law to respond to public comments during a meeting. 

After the meeting, Looney told DailyTrib.com that the two items will be on the next agenda, when all of the council members will be present, as Jones was absent.

“When we are talking about moving money around, the entire council is supposed to be there,” he said. “It will be on the next agenda.”

Just what those items will be is still not clear, Looney continued. The parks committee suggested taking money earmarked for salaries for positions that are not currently filled and using it for parks improvement. Looney said the city needs to fill those positions. 

“We want to get the parks fixed,” he said. “We have to find the money to do that. Right now, we don’t even know how much money we need, and we are working on that.”

The next meeting of the Granite Shoals City Council is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road. 

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The council rejected the only bid it received from a local car dealer to provide five vehicles to the city fleet. The dealer only bid on two of the five but could not promise a quick delivery because of supply chain issues. The council voted to send a request for proposal for the vehicles to the BuyBoard Purchasing Cooperative

suzanne@thepicayune.com

2 thoughts on “Controversial new hire request sent to Granite Shoals council workshop

  1. Thank you, Councilor Samantha Ortis, for a voice of reason.

    Looney’s comment “When we are talking about moving money around, the entire council is supposed to be there,”

    I would think the entire council should always be there. And when someone can’t, there is the zoom call.

    Also, if a new position is being added for ANY local government, it should be posted to the public. If there is a local qualified candidate, I vote for them!

  2. “When we are talking about moving money around, the entire council is supposed to be there,” he said. “It will be on the next agenda.”

    I’m sorry, Mr. Looney had on the agenda that he wanted to fund the new position with unused salary funds. Which is exactly what the parks committee requested. Why would this new position be able to be up for discussion without all the council members present?

    Also, is there something in the charter that states all council members must be present in order to discuss moving money around? I am certain that it does not. A majority, yes. All, no.

    This is just Mr. Looney contradicting himself, yet again.

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